Sarasota County Government and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office hosted a news conference on Monday, March 30, with updates for residents. Some key points:
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities
Charles Henry, the Florida Department of Health Sarasota Health Officer, reported that two Sarasota eldercare facilities have active cases of COVID-19. He would not release the names of the facilities, citing medical privacy issues. “We typically don’t talk about the specific locations of things going on as they relate to the health care of individuals,” Henry said, “and if we identify facilities then we could unintentionally identify the individual who is ill, so I won’t be providing the names. At this present time, I’m aware of two facilities where we have active cases.”
Creating a safer-at-home policy in Sarasota County
Sarasota County Commission Chair Michael Moran said the county is following guidelines and executive orders from Gov. Ron DeSantis and is not expanding upon them to put in a safer-at-home order like eight other counties in Florida. “There is a chain of command here, and in any type of crisis situation—I don’t care if it’s a hurricane, a tornado, a flood or disease, virus, such as what we’re dealing with here—it comes from the feds, down through the health department, down through the governor’s office. And I think it is imperative that people stay in those channels of command and to make sure we’re all on the same message. Anything that deviates from that can create some tension with partnering communities.”
Sarasota County Administrator Jonathan Lewis added, “We believe our residents are smart, competent people and they are making good choices every day,” he said. “We think that adding a safer-at-home [policy] is not necessary at this time.”
Moran also reminded everyone that DeSantis signed an executive order suspending all vacation rentals and new reservations to discourage people from COVID-19 hotspots fleeing to Florida. (People currently in rentals are exempt.) Hotels, motels, long-term rentals, resorts and time shares are also exempt. It is a second-degree misdemeanor if anyone violates this order.
Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said the Florida Department of Transportation has established checkpoints at I-10 on the state border between Louisiana and Florida to make sure anyone coming into the state from Louisiana self-quarantines for 14 days. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are also under this order. Knight said the sheriff’s office will not be stopping vehicles from any of these states that are on Sarasota County streets. Too many of them belong to people who arrived here prior to the quarantine order, he says, or they may be residents from these states who have second homes and drive cars with out-of-state tags. “There’s no reason to call us,” he says.
Sarasota County Administrator John Lewis said the county is not closing county public docks like the City of Sarasota did on Sunday. All moored boats on our waterways must stay 50 feet apart. Lewis urged residents to go online where they can interact with county workers. He asked that people not interact with county workers like bus drivers and utility workers, however, who are still on the job. “We appreciate that you want to thank them, but say 'hi' from across the street,” he says.